Thursday, July 21, 2011

United Nations Urges Urgent Aid for East Africa Famine

UN urges urgent aid for Africa famine

Thu Jul 21, 2011 9:46AM GMT

Women rush into a feeding center in a camp established by the Somali Transitional Federal Government (TFG) for the internally displaced people in Mogadishu July 20, 2011.
The UN has called for immediate action to contain the widespread famine in the Horn of Africa, where some 12 million people are in need of emergency aid in the drought-hit region.

On Wednesday, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called on donor countries to immediately come up with $1.6 billion in aid for two regions in Somalia, which are declared famine zones, AFP reported.

"Nearly half of the population -- 3.7 million people -- are now in crisis," said Ban, adding that "This will have an increasingly devastating effect, not only in Somalia but also in neighboring countries."

"We need donor support to address current needs and prevent a further deterioration of the crisis," Ban went on to say. "Humanitarian agencies need urgent funding to save lives.”

"If funding is not made available for humanitarian intervention now, the famine is likely to continue and spread," the UN secretary general added.

On Wednesday, the UN declared two regions of southern Somalia in a famine due to the worst drought in decades.

Mark Bowden, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia, warned that malnutrition rates in Somalia are currently the highest in the world, with peaks of 50 percent in certain areas of the country's south.

“Every day of delay in assistance is literally a matter of life or death for children and their families in the famine-affected areas,” Bowden said.

The UN Food Agency, FAO, says the famine is killing hundreds of people in Africa every day, warning that conditions will worsen in the coming months.

"Around 12 million people in the Horn of Africa are currently in need of emergency assistance," the FAO said in a statement.

"FAO has appealed for $120 million for response to the drought in the Horn of Africa to provide agricultural emergency assistance," including in parts of Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and Uganda, the organization said.

The UK-based charity group Oxfam has criticized the European governments over their slow response to the drought in the Horn of Africa.

Strategically located in the Horn of Africa, Somalia remains one of the countries generating the highest number of refugees and internally displaced persons (IDP) in the world.

The United Nations refugee agency reported in April that the number of Somali refugees arriving in neighboring countries during the first quarter of 2011 has more than doubled in comparison to the same period in 2010.

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